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Air purifiers, pollution and obesity

New research on mice links air pollution to obesity and an increased risk of diabetes. Is it possible an air purifier can be a tool in fighting fat? It’s a tempting conclusion to draw from research recently published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. The Ohio State University study found that mice exposed to air pollution got fat even if they ate a normal diet.

“This is one of the first, if not the first, study to show that these particulates directly cause inflammation and changes in fat cells, both of which increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes,” said Qinghua Sun, lead author of the study. The study focused on the effects of PM2.5 particulate pollution, which high-performance air purifiers are highly effective at filtering. Sun and the others exposed the test mice to pollution levels seven times higher than normal for Columbus, Ohio, USA, where the university is based. The exposure level of 111 micrograms per cubic meter was similar to levels found in many U.S. urban areas.

Other studies in recent years have closely examined the link between particulate air pollution and diabetes. For example, a 2005 study by the Harvard School of Public Health followed 270 patients with diabetes and concluded that diabetes increases a person’s vulnerability to other health effects caused by particle air pollution. A study from the University of Rochester in 2010 found that ultrafine particle pollution (the smallest, most harmful particles) increases the risk of cardiovascular disease for Diabetes Type 2 patients.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which does not endorse products, nonetheless acknowledges that the use of an air purifier may help to reduce levels of smaller airborne particles. The agency lists air pollution as among the top 5 indoor environmental risks. And, of course, opening windows to clean the air indoors simply won’t fix an indoor air quality problem if the outdoor air is bad too. Meanwhile, the team of researchers at Ohio State University now plan to set their sights on a follow-up study involving humans instead of mice. The study will be based in Beijing, China, where IQAir supplied air purifiers for U.S. Olympic athletes in 2008. Using ultra-high efficiency IQAir air purifiers, indoor air quality experts involved in the Olympics project were able to achieve elimination of 99 percent of air particles in a Beijing apartment.

 

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